The 'transparencies' are ephemeral apparatuses connected with Mendrisio's historical Holy Week processions, documented at least since the 17th century. The first large "luminous arches" or "lanterns" hanging on the streets only appeared in 1791, as Don Ambrogio Torriani states in a letter. It was almost certainly the Servite friar Antonio Maria Baroffio (1732-1798) of the convent of San Giovanni who introduced this tradition.
Although the "transparencies" were immediately managed by the Servants of Mary and kept in the Convent, they were always paid for by private citizens and, from 1794 onwards, also by the municipal authority of Mendrisio, which also had the task of organising their display. From the suppression of the Convent in 1852 until today, the Municipality of Mendrisio as owner of almost all the works - some of which were later received as donations from the families who had commissioned them - has always taken charge of presenting them in the streets of the Borgo on the occasion of the Holy Week processions.
Between 1791 and 1792 the first series of the so-called 'doors' was completed: the evident style, the inscriptions and dates painted on some of the frames, indicate Giovanni Battista Bagutti of Rovio (1742-1823) as the author, perhaps, of the original first series. Each façade presented a central scene flanked by two figures of prophets, whose texts were related to the depicted subject. In addition to the scenes from the Passion of Christ, at least two episodes from the 'Passion of Mary' were illustrated. In the same years he also signed and dated the group of 4 'pilasters' on the façade of San Giovanni and the series of 6 'sails' for the façade of the Convent of San Giovanni. Also attributable to him are the 'placard' above the church door, the arch with angels, the 4 'temples' with prophets, and 4 sets of street lamps.
The first documented works after Bagutti's are a series of 12 "lanterns" that the Municipality of Mendrisio paid in 1838 to Augusto Catenazzi, to be placed on "poles" along the present Corso bello. Once they had disappeared, or were no longer identifiable, in 1949, a similar commission commission commissioned Mario Gilardi to make as many "fixed lanterns" to be placed in the tree-lined avenue leading to the church of San Francesco dei Cappuccini, at the southern end of the processional route.